What’s Right About Youth Ministry

As I was placing an order on the The Youth Cartel website, I saw a new book had recently been released : What’s Right About Youth Ministry.  It was on sale (I think) and I had already qualified for free shipping, so I thought, “Why not? I’ve been trying to do more reading and it looks like a good read.” It was.

The book was authored by Mark Oestreicher (Marko). He has been a part of the youth ministry world for a number of years and has served in a variety of capacities.  He has a unique perspective as both a volunteer in his church’s youth ministry, a trainer of youth workers and a recognized speaker.

Kurt Johnson, Junior High Pastor at Saddleback, wrote responses at the end of each chapter. I found what he wrote to be helpful. He sometimes underscored what was said and other times provided a different perspective on the issue.

I’ve never met either of these men personally, but have read other works they’ve written, listen to them via video or audio recording and have heard them speak live and in person.  I value their experience and passion for youth ministry and appreciate the insights they have.  While the book is fairly short (just over 100 pages), it contains some great thoughts and challenges for youth workers.

There were a few things that stood out to me.  I love this “equation” or “magic formula that Marko gives for a great youth ministry.  He shares in the book that he was speaking to a group of Spanish-speaking youth workers and felt compelled, with all the other information he was sharing, to kind of simplify things.  He said there are three things necessary for great youth ministry: 1) You Like Teenagers 2) You Are a Growing Follower of Jesus 3) You Are Willing to Live Honestly in the Presence of Those Teenagers You Like.

I thought that was so helpful and a good description of my small group leaders and volunteers.  Marko then kind of expanded it to say this:

A grace-filled caring adult who’s willing to be present with teenagers
+
A small-ish group of teenagers
+
The power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus
=
Fantastic youth ministry!

While there is no much we need to know about youth culture and helping students in crisis and relating to parents and communicating well and managing details and staying organized, I thought this “equation” was right on.

I’ve been in full-time youth ministry for nearly 30 years, yet still can fall into the comparison trap where I look at what others are doing and see how I measure up.  Whether you are brand new to youth ministry or have been doing it for decades, it’s something we all can find ourselves doing.  Marko’s encouragement is for everyone.

God isn’t calling you to be just like the youth ministry from that other church, even if that youth ministry is fantastic; God is calling your youth ministry to discern and embody the unique contextualized expression of youth ministry he has dreamed up for you.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better and smaller doesn’t trump bigger.  Being faithful to where God has placed you and knowing the context in which you serve are important elements.

In an earlier chapter Marko also talked about the importance of keeping the course and not just changing up programming to get a different result.  I think this is connected with the idea of being who God has called you to be.  He talks about the misplaced gorgeous value of patience and the mundane way of steadfastness.  I agree that we need to modify our methods as culture changes, but there is also the reality that we should be steadfast and consistent in our ministry to students. Many of my leaders have great relationships and influence with students because they have been steadfast and consistent.

As youth ministry as a profession has changed over the last few decades and, as some have said, has gained legitimacy as a career path, it has led to so many different voices and resources available for youth workers.  I love the fact that I can read a blog, subscribe to an email list, join a Facebook group or watch a video that provides training and information I couldn’t get as easily before.  It has opened the door for other voices that you would most likely not have ever heard from before.  Kurt Johnson, in one of his responses, talks about this very thing and offered a great insight: But, just because somebody has a voice doesn’t mean you need to listen to what the person says, nor does it mean that person’s insights are as valid as somebody else’s. These days almost everybody has something to say and thinks he or she is the person to say it.

I found that to be helpful and echoed what I found myself thinking when I would read something someone wrote.  Just because I have some kind of platform (like a blog perhaps?), doesn’t mean I necessarily have the wisdom or insight a particular situation or issue requires.  Sure we can all disagree on issues (just look at the comments on any Facebook group you are a part of), but I think we need to be discerning in the voices we listen to and ideas we adopt.

What’s Right About Youth Ministry was encouraging to me because it affirmed some of the things we’ve been trying to do, but also provided some challenges as we move forward. I found it to be helpful to me and think it would a good read for other youth workers.

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Fortnite and Your Family

photo credit: mikecogh Luc Playing Fortnite via photopin (license)

Even if you aren’t into video games and rarely (if ever) play, you have heard of Fortnite. People talk about it all the time and it has spilled off the screen into our culture. This summer, while at a high school conference, some of our students were doing dance moves from Fortnite. Another student, from another youth group – a student we had not even met – started dancing along with our group. That is the power of Fortnite.

If you are a parent of Fortnite fanatic, you may have some questions about the game or concerns about the amount of time students spend playing the game. Here’s a good resource to help answer some of those questions and even create some conversation with your student.

Parent Ministry seeks to provide a library of resources and tools to parents. Recently they published a free article about Fortnite titled THE FAMILY BATTLE ROYALE (Fortnite and Your Family).

The article highlights the fact that nearly 80 million people are plugged into the game and it is a place for students to connect with friends.

Years ago I heard a speaker talk about relationships of proximity (I’m friend with you because we live in the same neighborhood or attend the same school) and relationships of affinity (we are friends because we share common interests).  Fornite has become a place for those relationships of affinity.

The article also links to an article from Common Sense Media that provides a guide for parents about the game.

If you are a parent of a Fortnite player, it would be worth the time to check out this resource or share it with a friend.

#WorldAdoptionDay @daytonmomsblog

It’s hard to believe how much has changed since this picture was taken. Max is now 5 and is in his second year of preschool. Eli wasn’t even a blip on our radar, yet we can’t imagine our family without him. Adoption has changed so many people and so many families and we are excited to once again celebrate it through World Adoption Day.

World Adoption Day is a world-wide celebration of adoption. It is designed to celebrate family and to raise awareness for adoption.

The concept is so simple and so beautiful. Grab a sharpie, draw a smiley face on your hand and then post it on World Adoption Day, Nov. 9.

My wife has written an article on Dayton Moms Blog sharing more about the day. Go check it out and be involved!

How has adoption changed you? We’d love to hear your stories.

Come be a part of World Adoption Day.

The Life Giving Leader

When I first started reading The Life Giving Leader, I honestly wondered if we needed another book on leadership. Certainly not everything has been said that could be said about leadership, but I know there are lots of resources available for leaders. As I read Tyler’s Reagin’s book, I saw the value in what he had to share.

As the President of Catalyst, I know Reagin is in a position of leadership and also rubs shoulders with many of today’s top leaders. He draws from those experiences and shares them in the book.

In the first part of the book Reagin focuses on the person of the leader, primarily helping every leader to lead from who they are. He shares how he didn’t feel he could be a leader because of his personality type. He even shares how on two different occasions people told him that his success could be hindered by his personality. He goes on to encourage leaders to live and lead from who they are, what he calls “your truest self.”

I think we all have a picture in our mind of what a leader looks like. While we identify that ideal image, we also are able to point to the places where we don’t match up to the ideal. Reagin’s encouragement is to be who God made you to be, to lead out of that identity and give life to others. Those are good words we all need to hear.

In the second part of the book, he writes about the behaviors of a life-giving leader, including being willing to sweat, sacrifice, surrender and serve. While he had some good insights and suggestions in those chapters, one particular portion really stuck out to me.

Near the end of a chapter, he was writing about the importance of being on a team and how the leader builds good teams. He writes about developing trust and a culture where people believe the best instead of expecting the worst. I thought this quote was a great reminder as we work with people. We are going to let one another down, we are going to make mistakes and there is no perfect team. Knowing that Reagin writes this:

I know this is a crazy thought, but it’s good business to trust people. Obviously, there’s a chance someone will prove to be untrustworthy. But just because you had a bad cup of coffee once doesn’t mean you stop drinking coffee. Just because someone once used you and lost your trust doesn’t mean everyone who works with you should be called into suspicion.

If you work in any sort of group, team or organization, you know there exists what is called the “gap of information.”  When that gap exists, when we don’t know all the details or what someone is thinking when they make a decision, we fill in the gap with either trust or suspicion.  Reagin’s encouragement to leaders is to build a culture of trust and to be an advocate for your team members.  That is some solid advice for leaders as we continue to work with people.

The Life Giving Leader is filled with some good insights for leaders.  Reagin makes it clear that being a leader isn’t easy, but it is worth it. If you lead in any type of organization, this book would be of value to you.

Thanks to Waterbrook and Multnomah for an advance copy of The Life Giving Leader.

Have You Heard about Offline October

photo credit: Go-tea 郭天 Live from the streets via photopin (license)

So, have you heard about Offline October? Today was the first I heard about it.

Knowing that teens spend an average of 9 hours a day on their phones, they check their phones 157 times a day, send out more than 208 Snapchats, spend nearly an hour on Instagram, a movement has started to unplug. I don’t know much about the movement other than hearing the news story and visiting the website, but it seems like a good idea.

According to the website, after a number of teen suicides in the Littleton, Colorado community, a group of 25 students got together to come up with a solution to state that enough was enough. The challenge is meant for people to realize the importance of human relationships and the happiness that can come from direct human interaction. The goal of the movement is this: Don’t Post A Story, Live One.

If you are a parent this would be a good conversation to have with your student. What would it be like to go offline for the month of October, or even a week in October, or even 24 hours? Perhaps you could ask your student what kind of influence social media has had on their peers or even him/her. It’s an interesting challenge to consider and talk about.

There are resources and ideas for taking the challenge on the Offline October website.

Below is one of their promo videos.

My Name is Kate and I’m an Addict @DaytonMomsBlog

photo credit: Iker Merodio | Photography Welcome, Martin (the Beginning) via photopin (license)

If you have been following any part of our adoption journey, you may know we have a good relationship with Max’s birth mom, Mommy Kate. We have the opportunity to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other occasions together.

A little over a year and a half ago Cheryl wrote about our relationship with Mommy Kate in the blog post Her Name is Kate. You can see the original post on Dayton Moms Blog, where many have had the opportunity to read a little about her journey.

Today, Kate reveals a little more about her story in post called My Name is Kate and I’m an Addict. She recounts the days leading up to Max’s birth and some of what transpired afterwards.

Here’s a portion of her story:

My Addiction was at 110% and I was drowning in it.

The days after that court hearing, where my son took on the name of another family were so difficult. I continued the cycle of using and jail and hating who I had become. I ended up in jail one last time and then entered a rehab center (again). While trying to get myself healthy, the love of my life died of a drug overdose. I knew then and there that I needed to change or I would not make it. At his funeral services, I saw my son again. The adoptive parents came to pay their respects to their son’s birth father, and it touched me that they came and I got to take him around and introduce him to the family. I knew that I was going to be different, I wanted to stop drowning in my addiction.

Take a few minutes to read what Mommy Kate shares. Our lives are forever changed through her and Max.

Interesting Info on Gen Z

photo credit: AdamCohn Sharing a Mobile Phone via photopin (license)

This week I’ve read a few interesting things about Gen Z.

Generation Z is made up of those who were born 1999 to 2015; they are today’s preteens and teenagers.

A lot has been written about Millenials (born 1984 to 1998) as they are the largest generation in the US workforce (35% of today’s labor force).

There were two different sources for the information and they give two different snapshots of this generation.  The first is a podcast by Pro Church Tools, which focused on how Gen Z interacts with through social media.  The second source is the Barna Group, which has done some research on the beliefs of Gen Z.

Pro Church Tools talked about how Gen Z uses social media differently than previous generations.  The main distinction they made was that  Gen Z uses social media for one to one interactionswhere previous generations use social media for one to many interactions.

So, where previous generations will post something to Facebook for everyone to see (and to generate more friends), Gen Z will use Messaging Apps, including Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram DMs, along with others.

After I heard the podcast, I sent a message to over a dozen of the high school students in our student ministry.  I asked which Messaging App they used most frequently.  In the quick survey I took, Snapchat seemed to be the most used, along with Instagram and texting.  How Gen Z communicates is a little different from other generations and it is helpful to know if we want to communicate effectively.

The Barna Group study focused on what Gen Z believes.  While there were a number of stats shared, these two were highlighted:

  • 24% of Gen Z strongly agrees that what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society
  • 21% of Gen Z strongly believes sex before marriage is wrong – though they are mostly on par with other generations, with Gen X being the most conservative (26%)

While there is much more in the Barna study, I think those stats give an interesting look into Gen Z.  The fact that nearly one-quarter of the generation thinks that what is right and wrong changes based on society should create some interesting conversations.  If right and wrong is a sliding scale, it could have some pretty unique implications.

While I think we need to be careful not to stereotype people based on their age and not everyone who was born in a certain generation reflects those characteristics, it is good to have a sense of where our students are.

Barna does note that they only included teens 13 to 18 in their study.

Click on the links above to read all the information that Pro Church Tools and Barna provide.  If you work with students or are a parent of Gen Z, it is helpful information to have.